“Your works are miraculous, and your thoughts are exceedingly deep.” (my paraphrase, Psalm 92: 5-6)
In my last blog, I focused on the idea that spiritual principles or truths have a certain paradoxical nature about them. In many cases, they are comprised of two lesser truths that may appear to contradict each other on some level. Yet, as we push past a surface level of understanding we realize that the apparent paradox is what makes them so powerful and life transforming.
One such paradox rests in the relationship between spirit and word. Surely a healthy, unifying tension is meant to exist between the miraculous, spiritual power of God and the definable, applicable word of God. Unfortunately, such tension has been widely replaced, in Western Christianity, by a friction that only breeds disunity. The main reason for this lies in the fact that the spirit and the word do not enjoy equal footing among most Western groups of believers, and the consequences of this are painfully evident.
I don’t have these types of experiences often, but during a time of prayer and meditation, a greater revelation of the proper relationship between word and spirit came to me in the form of a vision. In my mind’s eye, I saw a single sword that suddenly split becoming two. One had a blade of silver and the other of gold. It was so vivid that I knew there was an important message in it, yet for the longest time, its full meaning remained somewhat mysterious.
What I did understand from the start was that the silver sword represented the word or the mentally attainable part of the message of Jesus Christ. It was the aspects of the Gospel our limited minds could grasp and apply to our lives in a practical sense, ultimately defining how we live out our faith and interact with the world around us.
I also understood that the golden sword represented the spirit realm or what we might call the miraculous or the supernatural. It is through such manifestations of the power of God, that we are given a glimpse of another world we know exists, but are unable to fully grasp or see with our natural eyes.
For a long time, I thought the vision was illustrating that Christians needed to learn better how to wield these two swords effectively, yet separately. I reasoned that both represented different approaches, if you will, to a spiritual battle that we are to be engaged in. Indeed, there is a partial truth to this, but the fullness of the message didn’t actually get through to me until years later.
What I have come to realize is that the actual splitting of the sword was the key point of the vision. I believe God was trying to show me that such a division was never meant to happen, and was not by his design. Once I understood this I soon experienced another waking picture or vision.
This time I saw a single double edged sword, with a silver colored steel blade, but when a light source directly hit the blade it reflected golden light. There was an element of mystery about it that was both intriguing and unexplainable. Yet it was physically impressive and powerful. It was forged from the best, and hardest metal alloy, yet it shimmered in silver color, and golden light.
Obviously, no practical sword would ever be made from either silver or gold as both are relatively soft, as metals go. If either sword were actually made they would only be useful as ornamentation. The gold would remain beautiful in appearance as long as it was never actually used, but the silver would soon tarnish even without use. But after some research I discovered a very interesting fact; if one were to combine both metals the result would be an alloy harder than gold that would not tarnish like silver.
Are modern Western Christians guilty of attempting to wield two lesser swords rather than the one greater sword that was originally entrusted to us? Do different traditions favor one of the swords over the other? Do some have a lazy attitude toward the word while others are fearful of the spirit? Do some ignore one or the other, even teaching that the other is no longer for our time or is of far lesser importance?
Evidence that the splitting of the sword was a mistake is ample if we compare 1st Century Christianity with today’s common Western form. For example, if one reads Acts chapter 19: 1-20 we find persuasive preaching and debate, (word) sandwiched between different powerful demonstrations of the miraculous, (spirit).
When the Apostles went out and engaged the culture it was the signs and wonders performed through their hands that opened the eyes and ears of so many. Any attempt to reveal the person of Jesus Christ without the presence of his signature miracles will naturally be far less persuasive.
Equally, if the miraculous had been demonstrated void of a powerful and Holy Spirit-empowered proclamation of who is responsible and what he expects of those who witnessed the miracles, there would have been far less of an impact.
The performing of miracles gave the Apostles a level of credibility they would not have had otherwise. People were suddenly paying close attention and a word effectively challenging the dominating word shaping their thinking could now be spoken with far greater authority.
The one sword is a powerfully offensive weapon that was entrusted to us that we might effectively engage in spiritual warfare. It has the power to break the influence of the enemy over the minds and hearts of people and cultures. Turmoil, unrest and a sometimes violent reaction ensued when the Apostles unsheathed the one sword, but the results were undeniable. If both spirit and word are not presented in one tactical approach there will be no effective challenge to the status quo, and little opposition from both the spiritual and physical worlds.
Sound familiar? Does this not describe a large chunk of today’s Western Christianity that is very reluctant to engage on such a confrontational earth shaking level?
For the first followers of Jesus Christ, there was only one sword. It was understood as one message, brought forth by the persuasive proclamation of the truth of who Jesus was and a powerful demonstration of his power. It was this unified message of word and deed that changed the hearts and minds of so many, so quickly, and effectively turned the world upside down.
I’m persuaded that the recasting together of these two elements is one of the major keys to spiritual renewal in our own time. I also believe that this division has ramifications in many different areas, and is the main hub that so many poor, ineffectual ideas and methods of how to proclaim the Gospel grow out from. Not to mention that it is one of the greatest sources for disunity in the body of Christ. We see a Christianity divided by the confusion created from this unnatural and ungodly division. Many fall into one camp or the other and very few seem able to wield the one true sword effectively.
Both seem unwilling to face the fact that the success of the early church was in large part because they went out and effectively challenged the status quo. When they proclaimed that Jesus Christ was King, while at the same time demonstrating his supernatural power, they were making a bold and powerful political and socially statement that shook the foundations of popular thought and ingrained behavior. It demanded attention because it effectively exposed and then challenged the spiritual forces that were manipulating and controlling the residing culture.
This is precisely what is lacking in most modern forms of Western Christianity. The word focused and spirit focused camps have been content with hanging up their preferred ornamental sword within the walls of their enclaves rather than taking up the one sword that can be effectively wielded for the kingdom. Thankfully there are many signs that this is about to change, and the time for revival and reformation is at hand.